Recently, a friend sent me a link with a simple message that read, “This made me think of you”. I immediately panicked, fearing that she’d discovered my “dogs dressed up in boudoir clothes” fetish and sent a few gawk-worthy canine beauty shots my way.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the case (dodged a bullet there). Instead, the link was for a site called CBC News Kids. I clicked, landing on a page featuring four children overlooking a gorgeous plain in Namibia, one of my fave countries. I figured this was why my friend had sent it through; that was until the article heading titled, “These kids are seeing the world’s most amazing sights before they go blind” got my attention.
It shared the story of the remarkable Pelletier family from Quebec: Dad Sebastien, mom Edith, and Mia (11), Leo (9) Colin (7) and Laurent (4), who are travelling the world to create visual memories for the family while it’s still feasible.
I say, “while it’s still feasible” because, for the Pelletiers, time is of the essence. Four years ago eldest sibling Mia was diagnosed with an incurable genetic eye disease which will cause her to lose most of her sight by early adulthood. Shortly after the family received this devastating news, two of her brothers got the same diagnosis. I know, right?
Understanding that within a matter of a few years, three of their four children would no longer be able to see, Sebastien and Edith realized that time to create real-life visual memories was extremely limited.
Once this happens, the children will have to rely on other people’s words to describe things to them. These wise parents also reasoned that hearing a description of an elephant isn’t the same as seeing an elephant in person, right?
Of course it isn’t; and with this, Sebastien and Edith made a bold decision. They put their lives on hold and took their children on a global quest to collect indelible memories to be shared for years to come. As I read the article, they’d already been to Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Turkey, with Asia being next on their list.
I completely understand. At age five, my son Tristan was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, and was given just five years until his muscles gave out. In layperson’s terms, he’d soon be a quadriplegic and unable to experience life as an able-bodied person. Instead he was going to need 24/7 help to do everything from eating to dressing to personal care.
Even before muscular dystrophy showed up, my goal had always been to create wonderful memories for, and with my son. But as with the Pelletier family, life had placed an unforgiving obstacle and deadline in our path. Also like them, this development put my sense of urgency for creating lasting real-life memories for him into overdrive.
I was never one to buy “stuff” for my son. I’d seen too many parents lay out hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on expensive toys, video game consoles, electronics, etc. that had collected as much dust as their parent’s barely used home exercise equipment and/or other material excesses.
Instead, my goal was to focus on creating a stockpile of memories for us to be able to eventually look back upon together, especially once Tristan’s body finally failed him. Obviously, I told none of this to my five-year-old son; that would be horrible. I just said we were going to have lots of father-and-son adventures, and so we did. Like, every day.
On sunny days, we went to parks and playgrounds. On the really hot days, we’d go to the lake and swim. Sometimes we’d listen to free music in the park, or picnic by the river and feed the two resident black swans. On special occasions, we’d go to the zoo.
We would go to the library, museum, or wave pool on rainy days. Other days, we’d take in a kid’s matinee. On snowy days we always went tobogganing, and warmed up with hot cocoa -with marshmallows, of course- when we got home. One time we even went up in a hot-air balloon and crash-landed on a frozen river–it was epic!
The times I had money we went large, travelling to Seattle to see the Space Needle, Mexico for snorkeling, San Francisco to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, and on a Disney cruise in the Bahamas to hang out with Mickey and the gang. One time we even went to Europe for a month and visited seven countries!
Even when I was broke, we’d find adventures. We’d go to Wal Mart to look at Hot Wheels (Tristan’s favorite) for hours before he’d pick one out ($.99-cents) to buy. Sometimes we’d get a $5 pizza from Little Caesars, and two $.99-cent kid videos from Blockbuster and eat/watch them from the sheet fort we’d build in our little apartment.
Regardless of whatever kind of adventure we had, be it big (climbing the Eiffel Tower) or small (a sunny day playing at the park), at bedtime we’d always recap the highlights of that day. We’d discuss the sights, sounds and smells, and recall the wins, the losses, the wonders and the joys.
We’d also talk about any sadness or sorrow, just so the two of us could take in the full day’s experience in its entirety. Regardless of what we talked about, it was at these times I felt our bond was at its strongest. No wonder it was my favorite part of the day.
As hard as life was sometimes, my goal was that Tristan and I would always engage in experiences and activities that would enable him to recall wonderful memories for the rest of his life.
Although he doesn’t remember everything we’ve done over the years, whenever I reminisce these days with my twenty-six-year-old son, we always find some fun memory or crazy moment that unfailingly brings a smile to both our faces. And we laugh. A lot.
So yeah, I get what the Pelletier’s are doing by taking their children travelling around the world. They are creating lasting memories that the family will be able to share for many years do come, regardless of circumstance. Because long after material stuff is gone, the memories will always remain. I’ve learned this firsthand with my own son.
This is why I applaud the Pelletier family, and would like to add one additional thought: While it’s amazing to create special memories whilst travelling the world, it’s just as easy to create equally special ones at home, especially for our kids. When we create memories our children, there’s no telling what we’ll have to share with them in twenty or thirty years, or perhaps even forty. It’s possible!
Who knows? By then, there may even be a whole new audience of grandkids to benefit from our stories; and in my mind, that’s a true legacy to leave behind.
Certainly much better than a bunch material stuff, or worse: Pictures of basset hounds wearing corsets and bonnets. Trust me on this one.
The original CBC Kids article can be found HERE
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 37 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.
Susan Walker says
Well, that post about Tristan was certainly inspiring. Thanks, Dave.
Mary Anne and John says
This story made us laugh and cry and made us think What a great Dad! Thanks for sharing these precious memories!